Editors note: the posts in this series are excerpts from Jason’s field notes.
Day 3 – 20180729: Off early again, trying to ensure we saw no people today. This early stretch up to White Mountain summit is the only place we are likely to see anyone on the entire trip. We rely on a snow patch visible at top of the ridge to get water. Its too early for it to melt enough to fill our bottles, so we pack them with ice instead. We rest and eat early lunch there, and while Nastassja fills her bottles with snow melt, I briefly visit the actual summit. The view of the third class pitch coming up is extremely daunting. I can’t imagine how we’re going to be able to do it. But we head on anyway.
We get around the first pinnacle. One obstacle at a time. We leave our packs behind and I carry just water, a bit of food, and emergency gear. We focus on getting ourselves and Marvin across the first. We mostly bypass various clifflets by descending as needed. The final set of cliffs require descending a few hundred feet probably. Once we reach the bottom of that last descent and see that the way forward is now just all scree/talus, I leave Nastassja and Marvin and return to pick up a pack. It is very hard work relocating the route back and forth each time. I see a good specimen from an amazing, abundantly fertile population of a new species of Aspicilia that Tim Wheeler is describing. The species is all over these cliffs. It takes hours all told to finally get us and all our packs over to the other side of the pitch — probably only a quarter of a mile or less!
We finally leave around 1:30, but I haven’t eaten enough apparently (no appetite, probably from the altitude) and am exhausted for the rest of the day. Still, it is exhilarating that we actually managed to get past the dreaded third class pitch, having only had to boost and lift Marvin a handful of times. We are actually going to be able to finish the hike after all! Pretty shortly after heading on, we see a herd of deer a few hundred yards ahead. We watch them through my silly little monocular for a while, trying to convince ourselves they are sheep, not deer. But really, no question, they are mule deer.
We follow a game trail shortly after an early pass while trying to avoid a nasty unnecessary climb. The terrain soon becomes gentle, with lovely green rolling meadows studded with granite boulders and lots of golden composites. Perfect lighting in late afternoon sun. Pretty much perfect all around. We descend the 2000 feet to Cabin Creek close to sunset. We find some obsidian flakes in the area of a small outcrop — we aren’t the only people who’ve camped here! The sunset is again almost entirely obscured by smoke. The meadows along Cabin Creek are phenomenal: lined with willow and abundant Erythranthe guttata and E. primuloides. I see some Cladonia here. Nastassja discovers that wrapping the tarp across our midsections for Marvin to sleep under makes it much more pleasant for both of us, while apparently Marvin manages to stay warm enough at night.